Sailing Red Rooster
Thursday 27th October 2016
It was the sun that woke me on that first morning in Corsica. When I got up it was quite cold in the boat. We had bought a little electric fan heater in La Spezia to warm the boat as winter wasn’t far away. We hadn’t needed it until now but the temperature must have dropped during the night as outside RR was running with condensation. We are lucky in that our boat is an Etap and filled with foam for buoyancy as this foam also provides very good thermal insulation and we have never had condensation problems inside of the boat. I put the kettle on and by the time it had boiled the boat was warm and toasty.
When I went outside the air was crisp and clean, the visibility was perfect unlike our crossing from Elba the day before. Somehow Macinaggio looked really French, I know that sounds a bit stupid as Corsica is a French island but you know what I mean. Most of the buildings were in need of a lick of paint, some of the windows had small balconies with rusty railings around them, all the windows had slatted shutters, there were a few restaurants dotted around the edge of the marina and the only place that looked open was the boulangerie.
Behind the little village the green hills covered with trees rose up steeply with a small field here and there laid to grass probably for horses or cattle. I could see two or three pillars of smoke rising into the air from what must have been garden fires of damp leaves and twigs as the smoke was so dense. Looking at the fields and the green hills I had a flash back of England. Most if not all of the other islands we have visited so far looked a bit dry and brown for the most part but from where I was standing Corsica looked like a green and fertile island.
After a few hours sorting the boat and hosing it down we all strolled into town for a bite to eat before walking along the beach and up onto the headland that was crowned with a small stone lookout tower. The brown Labrador dog from the restaurant came along with us, I hoped the owner realised where she had gone but it looked like she had done this many times before as she led the way along the footpath. I had very strong flash backs of me walking my German Shepard ‘Skeg’ across the beaches and towans when I lived in Cornwall many years ago. The walk was lovely, a small winding path that led us first to an old canon, it looked real but I am sure it was placed there as an attraction rather than having been there for a few hundred years. It was a beautiful place to stop and catch our breaths before we went on and upwards to the summit where the circular stone tower was.
The tower looked like it used to have an internal staircase leading up and around it so the men could stand outside but be protected by a waste high wall. Inside there was the remains of a fire place and chimney. I suppose they had to stand guard all year round so the room must have had beds as well as stores of food and water.
We saw many of these stone towers placed along the coast line at regular intervals. They were constructed by the Genoese from 1530 to 1620 to defend the island from pirates as many hundreds of Corsican villagers had been captured and sold into slavery. There are about 90 - 100 of them some were larger than others this one was quite small. They were originally constructed as lookout posts with the larger ones designed to have cannon to help defend the island from attacks mainly by Turkish corsairs. They were very difficult to destroy because of their round solid construction. In fact the Navy was so impressed by their simple design and effectiveness that they built many similar towers around the south East coast of England calling them Martello towers.
The one at Macinaggio was reasonably well preserved and I enjoyed imagining what it must have been like to sight a pirate ship on the horizon, signalling the village below as well as the next tower in the chain, of the threat thereby giving them time to run or to prepare to fight.
We walked back down to the beach via a different, steeper path. Back on the boats the sun was still very warm so we decided to have a bit of a picnic on the sea wall.
We decided to move onto Saint – Florent the wind was light as we left meaning we could stay in close to Cap Corse and admire the scenery, the wind picked up as we rounded Capo Bianco allowing us to sail for a few hours in brilliant sunshine. As we neared the marina Claire and I decided to drop and set the anchor just outside by way of a test for the windlass. It worked well and my back sang its praises.
It was a Saturday and out of season so there wasn’t anyone in the office or any marinaro to help us in. Graeme and Jayne were already tied up to a pontoon so we went alongside them. It seemed a nice place and we walked around the marina popping into the spar for a few things.
We had a drink on RR and decided that as the weather was settled we should move on to Calvi in the morning as apart from the town itself Saint – Florent had little to see or do.
I must admit to feeling a little guilty when we left the following morning without paying. We noticed two or three other boats doing the same but what else could we do?? There was nowhere to pay, no one about to take our money so we left at 10.00. Motoring past the Genoese tower at Murtella that held firm for some considerable time against the Royal Navy in 1794.
We decided to stop for lunch in the bay of Algajola, dropping our anchors into the very clear water, watching them dig into the sand 5 -6 meters below. It looked beautiful and I decided to go for a swim. The water was about 22 degrees and it wasn’t that difficult to get in, refreshing rather than bracing. I swam around the boat a couple of times before Claire came in too. Not bad for the end of October. Jayne and Graeme were happy to watch. We stayed for an hour or so before moving onto Calvi.
Calvi is another of those ports that are just steeped in history and I loved the sight of the citadel coming into view as we crossed the Golfe de Calvi heading towards the marina. There was no one about here either but the pilot book informs us to tie up to the stone pontoon as you enter and wait to be given a berth so that’s what we did.
We had a quick stroll around the town before returning for a drink on RR. We all decided to stay here for a few days as there was a lot to see. Claire and I had some dinner, watched a film on the PC then went to bed.
Monday 31st October, Graeme and I went to book in. I was expecting it to be expensive as Calvi was among the best marinas on the island but it was about 30 Euros a night, or if you paid for 5 nights you got two extra for free!! So we took the deal. When we got back to the boats the girls were pleased that we were staying for a while too. We started sorting the boat out with an agreement with Jayne and Graeme that we would go for a walk into town around 1400.
There was a large cruise liner in the bay with a few of its life boats shuttling passengers ashore. Just before 1400 a swell started making its way into the marina. I thought at first that it was the shuttle boats causing the problem but you could see the swell out in the bay. It wasn’t very big but it started RR and Scarlett surging. First pushing the boats backwards so they strained on their bow lines then the boats moved forwards quite quickly tugging hard on their stern lines. It doesn’t sound much but it was quite violent preventing you from standing on-board without holding on. We were all on the pontoon getting ready to leave for our walk when a larger swell entered the marina forcing Scarlett back so hard that she popped one of her fenders as it was squashed between the stern and the concrete wall. The next one saw the boat itself hit the wall. Jayne was on-board sorting the cat rescue thing out for Izzy. Graeme and I jumped back on-board and pulled up on the bow lines which helped keep the boat off of the wall but it was very uncomfortable. We later learned that the cooker on Scarlett was knocked off its gimbals by the force of the motion.
I ran to see the marinaro’s explaining the problem and asking if we could move. They said we could move further into the marina where they thought the problem wouldn’t be so severe. This we did, it wasn’t easy moving the boats but with all of us helping each other we got off and into our new berths. All of the boats in the marina were moving about by now but none as violently as we were on that first wall.
We did manage to get into town for a bit before walking to the super U where I bought myself another new camera. A Kodak this time. You can judge for yourself how good it is by looking at the pictures from now on in.
The 1st of November 2016 saw us walking around the citadel of Calvi. There is a lot to discover here, for instance Christopher Columbus was born in the Calvi Citadel. Very little if anything has been done to modernise the streets. The roads and paths are mainly made up of large cobble stones some of which must have been from the original construction. The fortifications are very much intact and you can walk around them taking in the fantastic views. I really liked walking around here as Nelson, a captain then was involved in the siege that took place here in 1794.
The Royal Navy commanded by Lord Hood, Lieutenant-General Charles Stuart and a young Captain Nelson recently arrived in his ship Agamemnon from Livorno bought their forces to bear on Calvi after winning their siege at Bastia on the 20th May. It was not going to be easy as on three side’s large granite walls rise steeply up from the granite rocks that emerge from the sea and the forth side is guarded by large bastions.
The plan was for Nelson to lay off a small inlet called Porto Agro about three miles from Calvi where he would land men, weapons and stores. The men would then manhandle everything up to the vantage point of Notre dame de la Serra that overlooked the Citadel. It took over two weeks to accomplish this before the first shot was fired. It was during this siege that Nelson lost the sight in his right eye when a French shell burst on the ramparts blasting stone and rock into his face.
We stopped for a drink in one of the very few restaurants that were open, and although the location and views were excellent the bill of over 17 euros for two small beers and two small glasses of rosé took the edge of the enjoyment. It’s dearer here in the off season than it was in Monaco when we stopped for a drink in the marina there with Karen and Peter!!
Walking back to the boats we decided that we would walk up to the vantage point of Notre dame de la Serra in the morning.
2nd November, we left the boats around 10.00 with strong shoes on, backpacks laden with drink and sandwiches. I thought of Maria from Almerimar as we headed off through the carpark at the super U. We followed the road up past the 5 star ‘The Villa’ hotel. We were using the map I got from the tourist information centre that turned out to be very inaccurate. Why is it so difficult for a tourist information centre to produce a decent map!! Anyway we wandered around a bit before finding a path that led upwards in roughly the right direction. It was quite steep and we stopped a few times where on one occasion I built a little stone pile for Maria but before long we were standing in the church yard of the Notre dame de la Serra. The views were definitely worth the effort.
The church was rebuilt after Nelson flattened the original one to place his cannon. From where we were standing it looked a long way but I have found out that a British 64lb naval cannon could carry for over 5 miles. It took about 50 days for the siege to force the French to leave but only after the troops were guaranteed safe passage to Toulon with full battle honours. Whilst looking on line for information about the siege I found a bit about a cannonball that is still stuck in the citadel fortifications very high up on one of the large granite walls!! I am not entirely sure if it's true but something is there, walking past later I took a picture of it. What do you think?
We decided to walk back via Calvi, it was quite a way but once again the views were stunning. We stopped at a bar for a drink before getting back to the boats and got ripped off again.
Once we had recovered we decided to go to the super U for a big shop and to buy some hot ready cooked food which we ate on-board Scarlett. I must admit that it was very nice. We had had a very good day but I was glad when it was time to go to bed.
We had a rest \ jobs day after our mini excursion. I went with Claire to do the washing as well as fixing the cooker. It was one of those 5 minute jobs that took hours. A little clip that holds the thermal thing that keeps the gas coming through when it's hot had rusted and broke so the little thermal thing dropped down out of the way of the flame so it didn’t get hot and the flame wouldn’t stay on!! Anyway it was a very frustrating job.
Friday 4th saw us all walking to the train station in Calvi to catch the small diesel train that rattles it's way around the coast to a little town called Ille Rousse. It was a beautiful day, we passed the bay of Agajola where we had lunch at anchor the other day.
Ille Rousse is a very nice town, there’s a nice walk along the promenade around the gently curving sandy beach, a sizeable town square that had a small market selling all kinds of stuff including local produce, fresh fish, clothes and jewellery.
We stopped in a café for a drink and a bite to eat. The food was lovely and Graeme and I had a lemon and sugar crepe each for dessert. They were delicious. We were pleasantly surprised when we got the bill as the Calvi influence obviously didn’t reach this far.
We caught the 1400 train back to the boats and had some dinner and a quiet night in.
We were all getting itchy to leave Calvi but the weather forecast for the next few days was very bad with strong winds and rain with a bit of thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure.
Saturday turned out very windy as promised. We went to the hardware store which is a lot like B&Q and bought a sheet of thermal insulation as I wanted to lag the hot water tank or more accurately the void that the tank sits in as it's under our bed. Having a heated mattress in the winter isn’t such a bad thing but its torture in the middle of summer. I am doing it now as I’m getting bored and I need something to do.
It was reasonably easy, the old insulation just fell apart as I undid the screws to the compartment. I measured and cut the new insulation giving me new sides, ends and most importantly a new lid. I am hoping that this may also keep the water warmer for longer.
As darkness fell the wind really started to get up, the rain fell followed by thunder and lightning. It was really spectacular to watch as it crashed all around us but as in the storms at Caleta de Velez over a year ago I do feel ever so slightly nervous sitting on RR with a long metal pole sticking up into the electrified air!! (There is a fuzzy picture below of the lightning over the citadel)
It went on for hours, stopped for a bit then started up again. Not much sleep for me but talking to Graeme later he slept right through the lot.
Sunday was wet and windy, we didn’t go out much but later we had Graeme and Jayne on RR for dinner and then we went onto Scarlett for dessert. All the food was delicious with Jayne’s apple crumble and homemade custard taking first prize.
I down loaded a weather forecast on our trusty pocketgrib app and it looks like we will be here for another week. There seems to be a big slow moving low over Italy and we are suffering strong winds and rain because of it. Just to be sure I got in touch with our friends Ian and Lynne. You remember them their boats called ‘Infinity’ and although they sound Liverpudlian, and do that thing with their hands when they say ‘calm down’ apparently their not from Liverpool, they’re from Cheshire!! Anyway they are back home now for a bit but they have a friend who works in a meteorology office and I asked them if they could ask their friend for a weather look ahead and she confirmed that the weather was very poor until the weekend. Oh well.
Claire and I went for a walk along to the end of the harbour then up some steps we found that skirted around and up the sea facing wall of the citadel coming out through a smelly doorway and a set of steps into the citadel itself. We walked around the ramparts, we had missed this section when we were here with Graeme and Jayne, passing a plaque commemorating the crew of a B-17 bomber that crashed into the sea very close to the citadel during WW2. Three lost their lives but the rest got out OK. I have read that the wreck is still pretty much all there and is very popular with the scuba divers.
When we woke up this morning Tuesday 8th there was snow on the mountains opposite the marina. These mountains are pretty high but still. Winter draws on. I know it's an old joke!
I have decided to do some of my ‘winter jobs’ now. One of which is to remove, scrub, dry and store the two sun blinds that fit along our boom. I cleaned the pontoon and laid them out one at a time giving them a good scrub with some cleaning stuff. I am not sure what it is with the canvass’y stuff used on boats but when it gets dirty it seems to stay dirty whatever you use to clean it. Claire and I gave them a real good going over but with no real improvement.
We had a chat with Graeme and Jayne about moving on. Calvi was a great place but we had been here for well over a week now and I think we all were feeling restless, the problem was that the weather was still dreadful. The wind never seemed to drop below a force 4. I know we should \ could go out in 4 but it had been blowing from the South \ South east every day and that my dear friends was bang on the nose for us as we travelled around the west coast of Corsica. Thrown into the mix was the sea state. Moderate to rough on the forecasts and we could clearly see the large swells entering the bay which would make sailing \ motor sailing very uncomfortable and that’s not what we are here for. Saturday was still looking better so we kept ourselves busy until then.
We all went for a good long walk along the beach, shopped for maintenance bits and pieces in the man cave (that’s the B&Q type shop to you) and generally fiddled about with things.
Graeme and I went to help a fellow sailor in distress, somehow and I’m not too sure what had happened but his boat, a forty footer had broken both its stern lines and was in the middle of the marina being battered by strong wind with the only line to shore being the very thin nylon slime line. The bow lines still held him to the bottom so he wasn’t going anywhere but his engine wouldn’t start and he couldn’t get back to the quay. We started hauling him back using the thin slim line but it got to the point where his bow line went tight so we needed another line from his boat to us. He had one and tried a few times to throw it but the wind was too strong so he stripped off and jumped in swimming it to shore. He swam back to his boat and made sure the new line was tight before he let go the bow line. We managed to pull him all the way in and made him fast in the corner of the quay.
He thanked us and we wandered back to our boats. I checked all of my lines before getting back on board and promised myself to replace some of my older dock lines this winter.
Friday 11th of the 11th month was a French national holiday and Remembrance Day for us. It was very quiet in Calvi with everything shut. We had paid up the day before as we still intended to leave on Saturday even though the wind was still blowing hard but it was due to drop in the night.
When we woke on Saturday we couldn’t hear a thing. It's strange to say but it felt odd not to hear the wind whistling in the rigging or halyards slapping on masts. This must have been the first day for ages that it was calm, everything was still and it made me creep around the boat trying not to disturb the peace and quiet.
It took quite a while to sort out all of the lines I had holding RR to the pontoon, the stainless steel mooring springs our parents bought us last Christmas in Almerimar were brilliant at taking the jolt out of the more violent movements the boat made as the wind and swell pushed us around these last few weeks.
I was sure that there was still going to be a sizeable sea running as the wind had only dropped a few hours ago so Claire made us two flasks of hot tea and coffee as well as tomato and basil soup in the flasks my mum had given us when we left England. Finally we were ready as were Jayne and Graeme. I completed my engine checks and Claire started her up. We motored out of the marina stowing the fenders and the last two mooring lines.
As we rounded the citadel motoring over the spot where the wreck of the B 17 bomber must have been the swell made itself known. It was about 1.5 meters with a larger one rolling in every now and then. We pulled the main up to help with stability although there was a bit of wind and I pulled the genoa out too. As we rounded the lighthouse on La Revellata the swell became noticeably bigger. It wasn’t very comfortable but it was OK. Claire went below to put her seasick watch on that her mother had given her so she was ok too.
We were heading for Girolata where we hoped to pick up a mooring buoy or anchor. The scenery we passed was fantastic. It was a bit chilly but not too bad. I loved looking at the blue sea in the foreground with the green hills rising up and up to be topped off with a dusting of snow on their peaks.
Before long the red rocks of Golfe d’ Elbo in the national park and world heritage site of Scandola came into view. The rocks looked great as did the many small bays. Anchoring is forbidden in the area but we were in pretty close and could see how beautiful it was.
Girolata was just around the next headland at the end of a very large bay called unsurprisingly the Golfe de Girolata. It took us just under an hour to get to the tiny harbour. We tried calling ahead on the VHF but got no answer. We motored forward so we could see into the tiny sheltered bay but there was no obvious space to anchor and although there were lots of buoy’s none of them looked up to much. A yacht that we had followed from Calvi (I think it was the same one that Graeme and I had helped the day before) had just dropped his anchor and it didn’t look at all comfortable for him as he was rocking quite badly in the swell. It seemed a shame as it did look really beautiful there but I think we were all thinking of the bad weather we had just gone through and I think all of us would feel better if we were in a marina as it did look quite exposed and after all it was mid-November. We had a plan B as all good sailors should!! Our plan B was to carry on and try to get into the small marina at Cargese before it got dark. It was about 16nm away and 7 of them was just getting back out of the Golfe we were in.
We pulled the main up again and soon we saw 15-20 knots of wind with the sea covered with flecks of white. We quickly pulled a reef in the main. We couldn’t sail though as it was bang on the nose again!!!!!!! Even with all this we were glad we didn’t drop the anchor back there.
By the time we got outside of the marina at Cargese it was pretty dark but we had the super moon on our side and that wasn’t the only thing that shone on us that night, good luck did too for as we came in a man, who turned out to be the harbour master caught our bow lines (we had to come in bows to as instructed in the pilot book) and sorted out the slime lines for us. He was on holiday but walked his dog around the marina every night. To cap it all it was a Saturday and the holidaying harbour master wasn’t interested in taking our money so we had a drink and Claire got the dinner on.
Cargese is quite an interesting place in that sometime in the 17th century a community of Greeks fleeing from their homeland due to Turkish occupation asked the Genoese for help. They were given permission to settle in Corsica. After a few skirmishes with the locals that went on for 50 years or more they were finally left alone and after several moves finally settled in Cargese. In the town a catholic church faces a Greek orthodox church across the main square.
Sunday dawned bright and clear so we headed off to the Corsican capital of Ajaccio. Again I felt slightly guilty at leaving without paying but the feeling soon wore off!!
We had a very nice breeze that saw Scarlett and RR turning our engines off about two minutes after leaving the marina and for the next couple of hours we sailed towards Cap de Feno. Obviously the wind eventually died but it was very nice while it lasted.
In no time at all we were going through the gap between Îles Sanguinaires and the headland at Pte de la Parata. It wasn’t really tight just a bit shallow. We could see Ajaccio ahead. It was a lot bigger than any of the other places we had visited on the island.
For some reason RR was going slower than she normally would under engine. You get used to knowing that at say 2000 revs the boat will go through the water at about 6 knots. Well we were doing 2000 revs and RR was just about making 5 knots?? Thinking back to when we were sailing a couple of hours before we were going well, between 6 and 7 knots so I was sure it wasn’t a problem with the boat. The engine sounded fine. We carried on a bit further but it was doing my head in so I stopped the boat and put her into reverse reasoning that we may have picked up something, a piece of fishing net for instance caught around our keel. I reversed for a bit turning at the same time before putting her into forward again manoeuvring around the bit of water we were just in like it was going to erupt or something. We didn’t see anything in the water but the boat was definitely going better!
There are two marinas in Ajaccio we went into the first one, Port Tino Rossi for no other reason than it looked like it was closer to the old town. As it was a Sunday no one answered the radio and there was no one there to show us to a berth so we both found an empty pontoon and reversed in.
We went into town the following morning after booking in at the office, about 30 Euro’s a night so not too bad. We wanted to see Napoleon’s birth place. Corsica is very big on Napoleon but to be honest he left when he was 6 so I think they are milking it a bit. We finally found his house but it was being worked on so we could only look at it from the outside. Like his place on Elba it was modest and non-descript.
I like Ajaccio, although it was the capital it was nicely spread out, no real high rise buildings but a few nice squares with narrow interesting streets leading off of them. There was a market most mornings selling fruit and veg, bread and smelly cheese. I like to get fresh bread, normally a baguette in the mornings. I don’t go as early as my brother in law Pete used to when he stayed with us but it is nice to get up and walk in a town or city when everything is just starting to open. I can’t really say why that is it’s just nice. I have been getting Graeme and Jayne some croissants also.
We wandered around a bit stopping at a bar for a drink before making our way back to the boats.
Tuesday 15th Claire got it into her head that she needed to clean the inside of the boat. That means everything off the shelves and sides for a wipe down with disinfectant type stuff, the heads get a proper going over with everything out of the cupboards in there. Then the seats and cushions in the saloon get hovered and finally the floor gets washed. It takes her a few hours to do this and it happens about once a week. During all of this I have to stay out of the way so I filled up RR’s fuel tank from my trusty fuel cans then took them to be re fuelled at the fuel dock. I washed RR down and fixed a couple of things. We had some lunch on board before walking back into town with Graeme and Jayne.
It was good to feel the warmth of the sun as we strolled around. We have been through a few weeks of grey, damp weather but now it was good to be out and about in the sun. We stopped as usual for a drink and I had a Pietra beer brewed in Corsica, it was very nice, not anything like a Doombar but nice all the same.
We found our way to the Spar supermarket and stocked up with food as we were moving on in the morning. Spar’s are good as they usually carry Heinz baked beans. There are other brands available!!
That night was ‘Super moon’ night. It looked very nice from the back of our boat. I can’t honestly say that it looked massive but it was bright and we were lucky that the skies were reasonably clear.
When we went to pay before we slipped our moorings the following morning we got a nice surprise as the Capitanaire only charged us for two nights. He didn’t do it by mistake and he wished us a pleasant onward journey. How nice is that.
Our plan, if it was calm was to anchor for the night in a beautiful bay called Campomoro. This we did. The windlass worked perfectly, the sun was shining and Claire and I went for a swim. Claire swam for a lot longer than I did. Once around the boat was enough for me after all the water was getting cold, it's only 18° now.
It was lovely to be at anchor again, the water was extremely clear with both Claire and Jayne enjoying feeding the fish with bread. A dolphin came into the bay for a while too. All very nice.
We left around 10.00 the following morning heading for Bonifacio under motor. I had a horrible job to do as I had been trying to pump out the toilet waste tank the day before and I tried again today but with no luck so it meant that I had to take the pump apart. It was flat calm and I needed to do it at sea really so I could hopefully fix it, test it and pump the tank out. To get to the pump we first had to move all of the stuff that was in the wet weather locker. Our wet weather gear, boots, life jackets, etc. there was loads of stuff in the locker. Anyway with that done I could take the pump apart, clean the diaphragm and the two non-return valves before putting it back together. When I went to test it Claire shouted that ALL of the navigation equipment went off!!!! What the hell was going on? I knew the two systems were completely separate because I installed them both. There was no way that they could interfere with each other. I opened up the fuse board checking that all the connections were good.
We turned the Nav equipment back on and it seemed ok. I said to Claire that I was going to try the toilet pump again but before I could reach it all the Nav stuff went off again! Claire was a bit twitchy about this as we were going through a rocky area and we agreed that she should just follow Scarlett who was ahead of us and leave the Nav stuff off until I could figure out what was going on. Claire also told me that the rev counter and temp gauge on the engine panel had gone off too.
I didn’t have a clue how this could be happening, I went into the forward cabin to get a few tools and when I turned the LED light on in there it was flashing like mad, something I had never seen it do before. Back at the main panel the voltage regulator which shows the voltage being generated by the engine or the solar panels was also reading quite high, around 14 V and the needle was quivering like it was under a lot of stress. I opened up the engine compartment to look at the alternator. I started thinking that perhaps something was wrong with the regulator that it was allowing too many volts into the system and I also thought that our Raymarine Navigation equipment had its own over voltage protection so this may be the reason it was all shutting down because the voltage it was receiving from the alternator was too high? I kind of thought I was on the right track so I switched everything off apart from the fridge.
Now how do you disconnect an alternator from the system when you need the engine to run as there was no wind? I got the boats manual out, found the wiring diagram and was trying to find where the cables from the alternator were connected and if there was a fuse in circuit. At this point Claire shouted down that the wind was building and Scarlett was setting her sails. Oh alleluia this is just what I needed as this would allow me to turn the engine off for a while.
Up on deck we hoisted the sails and was soon sailing well in a nice F3-4 of course as the boat heeled with the wind everything went crashing about down below but I didn’t care as the engine was now off. Making my way back down I was determined to cut the feed wire from the alternator but I noticed that the indicator light on the switch panel for the fridge had gone off too! What the hell was going on, how could turning the engine off turn the fridge off. I moved some clothing that had come out of the wet locker that was covering the two main isolator switches, they are on the side of the battery compartment which is also the seat for the Nav station and I saw that they were both in the off position!! They are never in the off position. I turned them both back on and the fridge came on. Looking at the wiring diagram of the boat again I could see that there was a feed from the alternator to the live side of the switch meaning that if the switch was off the boat would get an unregulated feed direct from the alternator whereas with the switch on the boat received a regulated feed via the batteries. Eureka!! We must have knocked both of these switches into the off position without realising it when we were emptying the wet locker of clothes. I turned everything back on. The lights stopped flickering, Claire called to let me know that the Nav equipment was up and that the rev counter and temp gauge was working as it should. How lucky was I that the wind arrived when it did as I was about to get the pliers out.
The toilet pump also worked fine and after cleaning up a bit down below I went back on deck to spend the next couple of hours chasing Scarlett across the water with a big grin on my face.
Live and learn.
The wind died after a few glorious hours of sailing. Sardinia was clearly visible on the horizon and we could just make out the whitish colour of the rocks that surround the area of Bonafacio.
As we motored closer we could see a square rigged ship standing off of the entrance into the harbour. We had seen this ship before through the mist as we left Elba. The rock colour and formation here was so different from anything else we had seen on the island. There were large caves formed by erosion I would guess. The entrance was clearly marked and we made our way in. The fort on our Starboard side was very imposing. As we rounded a bend the marina \ port opened up in front of us. I called up on the VHF and we were asked to go to pontoon J and pick a vacant berth. Pontoon J was virtually empty so we backed into the concrete pontoon and made fast picking up two slime lines for the bows. Scarlett came in alongside us. We celebrated entering this old and famous port with G&T’s on board Scarlett.
Well here we are in Bonafacio. I have heard nothing but good things about this place. My son came here on Ptarmigan and it was one of the places he said we must visit during our exploration of the Med.
Bonifacio has a lot of history, a skeleton called ‘the dame de Bonifacio’ was discovered in a cave in the limestone cliffs and she was walking around about 6,570 BC. There is also a lot of support for the theory that Bonifacio featured in Homers Odyssey as Homer’s description of a narrow passage through to a safe anchorage that was protected on all sides by high cliffs fits this place perfectly.
Bonifacio was given its name by the Tuscan Count Bonifacio who officially founded the town in 828 AD.
It's seen its fair share of trouble though, The Spanish King of Aragorn laid siege to the town in 1420 for 5 months but the town held firm. The French took control of Corsica in 1768 through the Treaty of Versailles and its strategic location was found to be important in both world wars with a garrison manned by the French Foreign legion right up until 1980.
We walked up the steep paths and steps into the citadel stopping to admire the views of the white limestone cliffs. We all remarked on how it reminded us of the white cliffs of Dover. Once we had crossed the drawbridge and walked through the Porte de Genes gates I was very pleased to be able to look upon the mechanism to raise and lower the draw bridge and although it was installed in 1598 it still worked!! The stone grooves that the counter balance wheels ran in were much worn and I loved running my hand over the stone smoothed by the countless hands of others throughout the history of this place.
It was beautiful once we were inside, small streets leading off in all directions. Very small entrances into the houses that led directly onto very steep staircases designed that way apparently to make it difficult for would be attackers.
We found a lovely church that was beautiful in its simplicity. Everywhere we turned there was something interesting to look at. We made our way onto the headland past the deserted army barracks that were begging to be turned into accommodation either for the locals or for the tourists.
The fortifications were still in very good order and it was great to be able to look out over a very calm sea admiring the white cliffs and Sardinia easily visible in the distance. We walked back to the boats via a bar and a very steep set of steps that took us back down to the water’s edge.
The following morning we decided to visit the caves that are just outside of the entrance. We needed to go in our own RIB’s so Graeme and I got ours off of the decks, clamped the outboards on and we were off. It was a lot windier today and as we rounded the last bend we could see a lot of white water in the entrance coupled with a disturbed looking sea as the waves rebounded off of the rocks. We were in the lead and I wished we had our life jackets on. We were getting very wet and I started to worry about being flipped as we needed to turn side on to the waves to make our way to the cave. Claire and I got as low as possible in the RIB to keep the centre of gravity down. I looked behind to see how Graeme and Jayne were doing. It looked like they had decided it was too rough for them and had turned around heading back into calmer waters. A larger wave broke over us after hitting the front of the RIB. Claire gave me the ‘I don’t like this look’ I still couldn’t see the entrance to the cave so decided to look for a spot to turn around. With more luck than judgement I managed to spin us around and soon we were heading back into the entrance. We were soaked but soon the water was calmer and we explored the two small inlets that led off from the main channel.
I was sad at not getting to see the caves but I think we had made the right decision. Back on-board RR we changed our clothes and had a nice hot drink.
We were off the following morning as the weather looked favourable to thread our way through the islands that are like stepping stones between Corsica and Sardinia. Many people have warned us about the strong winds that plague this stretch of water so we wanted to get going while the going was good.